The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is behind us and now we can begin the process of analyzing how each team did. With that in mind, below you can read Part 1 of our team-by-team draft grades.
This article analyzes the draft as a whole and the recent trades that have been made, but if you're looking for something that puts a greater emphasis on the first round, then be sure to check out Michael Finewax's recent article. Also, if you're interested to see how our Mock Draft measured up, you can read it here.
Now let's get to the team grades:
Carolina Hurricanes – B
The Hurricanes got two promising prospects in defenseman Fleury and goaltender Nedeljkovic. GM Ron Francis compared Fleury to Jay Bouwmeester and while he might never reach that level, Fleury is certainly capable of becoming a great shutdown defenseman. Meanwhile, Nedeljkovic was the OHL’s 2013-14 goaltender of the year and could eventually develop into a good starting goaltender, which is important given Cam Ward’s decline and their lack of top-tier goaltending prospects in their system prior to the draft. All-in-all, it was a solid draft for Carolina.
Columbus Blue Jackets – A-
The Blue Jackets took Sonny Milano (16th), Ryan Collins (47th), Elvis Merzlikins (76th), Blake Siebenaler (77th), Julien Pelletier (107th), Tyler Bird (137th), and Olivier LeBlanc (197th).
We’re factoring in recent trades as well when determining each team’s scores and the Blue Jackets certainly deserve recognition for prying Scott Hartnell away from the Philadelphia Flyers. Columbus is really loading up on forwards that provide a blend of skill with Hartnell joining the likes of Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, and Ryan Johansen. They will be a tough team to play against in 2014-15.
As for the draft itself, they got a potential top-six forward in Milano, although he’s going to spend some time honing his skills with Boston College before he tries to make the jump to the pros. They took another future college kid with the selection of Collins. He’s got the potential to reach the NHL level as a defensive defenseman.
New Jersey Devils – C+
With this draft, the Devils’ punishment for trying to circumvent the cap during their original attempt to sign Ilya Kovalchuk is complete. They didn’t even miss the playoffs, but were forced to draft 30th over a player that ended up abandoning them anyways.
The Devils are hoping they got another Adam Henrique in Quenneville, which frankly wouldn’t be anything to get excited over even if it wasn’t being overly optimistic. Anyone drafted has the capacity to defy expectations, but right now we doubt Quenneville will develop into anything more than a bottom-six forward. Jacobs is worth keeping an eye on as a potential two-way defenseman though.
New York Rangers – B-
The Rangers took Brandon Halverson (59th), Keegan Iverson (85th), Ryan Mantha (104th), Igor Shesterkin (118th), Richard Nejezchleb (122nd), Daniel Walcott (140th), and Tyler Nanne (142nd).
They didn’t have a first round selection because of the Martin St. Louis trade and they didn’t even get to pick until the 59th selection because they made it to the Stanley Cup Final – which is also due to the St. Louis trade. So yeah, by default they didn’t have a memorable draft, but it’s hard to criticize them for that when it’s a consequence of them having a great season.
As for their top pick, Halverson is a something of a high-risk, high-reward pick as he does have plenty of potential, but with just 19 games worth of OHL experience under his belt, it’s hard to say if he’ll ever develop into a noteworthy contributor in the pros. Still, the Rangers might as well go for the homerun with a late second rounder and they could use another goaltending prospect now that Cameron Talbot’s graduated to the NHL.
New York Islanders – A
The Islanders were unlucky to be stuck with the fifth overall pick in this draft, given that there was a noticeable drop in potential after the big four. Still, the Islanders got the best of the rest in Dal Colle. He’s probably not going to be able to stick with the Islanders next season, but he’s a good bet to develop into a top-six forward and it might only take him a couple of years to reach that level. He’s not just another offensive winger though as he also can help kill penalties and defensively.
They also had two other interesting picks in Ho-Sang and Sutter. Ho-Sang is arguably the biggest gamble of this draft at 28th because he certainly had the raw skill necessary to go much higher, but he’s attracted criticisms over his attitude and that raises questions about whether or not he’ll be a lightning rod for drama. If nothing else, he’s brimming with confidence as he’s already declared that he’ll be seen as the best player of this class in three years.
Sutter was originally taken in the second round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, but the team wasn’t happy with his development and decided to allow him to re-enter the pool. Given that he only cost the Islanders a seventh round pick, they were wise to gamble on him rebounding.
Philadelphia Flyers – B-
The Flyers took Travis Sanheim (17th), Nicolas Aube-Kubel (48th), Mark Friedman (86th), Oskar Lindblom (138th), Radel Fazleev (168th), and Jesper Pettersson (198th).
It was surprising to see the Flyers trade Hartnell for Umberger. From Philadelphia’s perspective, the move can best be summed up as concerning, but not necessarily damning. Umberger is in most regards the inferior player, they’re roughly the same age, and their cap hits are similar – although Umberger’s contract is shorter. Perhaps the change of scenery will do Umberger some good though as his situation in Columbus certainly turned sour.
Moving on to the draft, Sanheim has improved tremendously over the last year and if he continues along this trajectory, he could end up serving as a top-four defenseman. It seems like the Flyers have are in a constant struggle to find reliable defenders, so if he works out, it will be big for Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Penguins – C
The Penguins took Kasperi Kapanen (22nd), Sam Lafferty (113th), Anthony Angelo (145th), Jaden Lindo (173rd), and Jeff Taylor (203rd).
Trading James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling was an ugly trade. We want to give the Penguins the benefit of the doubt, but it’s difficult to do so. On the plus side, the Penguins are improving defensively and Spaling is a solid third or fourth center. That’s a noteworthy shift for a team that has struggled on the defensive side during their recent playoff runs. Plus as well as Neal has done alongside Evgeni Malkin, you could make a strong argument that Malkin really doesn’t need a Neal-caliber winger in order to thrive.
But what happens if Malkin and/or Sidney Crosby get hurt – a scenario that’s pretty likely given their respective histories. Losing Neal costs the team a potential 40-goal scorer – and there aren’t many of those out there. What’s really damning though is that the Penguins, which are in a cap bind, aren’t even really buying themselves much in the way of cap relief with this deal.
At least the Penguins lucked out by getting Kapanen with the 22nd overall pick. He probably shouldn’t have fallen as far as he did, although it will take a while before the offensively gifted winger makes it to the NHL.
Washington Capitals – B
After a disappointing season, the Capitals took Vrana with their top pick. He’s not going to help them in 2014-15, but no one on the board at that point would have. Still, it will be a while before he lives up to his potential as a top-six forward – if he ever does. Washington got a second Czech player in Vanecek, who is a promising goaltending prospect that should help keep the Capitals’ pipeline going once Philipp Grubauer eventually graduates.
Anaheim Ducks – A+
Almost a year ago, Anaheim dealt Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and a 2014 first-round pick, which we now know is Ritchie. Like Ryan, Ritchie is another big winger, although Ritchie certainly seems like the more aggressive. At the same time, when Ritchie reaches his peak, he still probably won’t have the raw offensive skill that Ryan has when he’s at his best. Not that the comparison is entirely fair and overall the Ryan trade was a very good one for Anaheim.
Speaking of good Ducks trades, getting Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and the 24th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft was a great maneuver by them. They’re cashing in on Bonino after the late bloomers decent 2013-14 campaign while collecting Kesler while his value was probably at an all-time low due to an unfortunate string of injuries followed by a disastrous 2013-14 season with Vancouver as well as the fact that the Canucks hands were partially tied by his trade demand. In the end the Ducks are getting a great second-line center to complement their explosive top-line without impacting their core.
Calgary Flames – A+
With the fourth overall pick, all the Calgary Flames had to do was take whichever member of the big four was left for them and they did that, so good job there. With Bennett and Sean Monahan leading the charge, the Flames’ future is exciting and we could get our first taste of that this year as Bennett does seem ready to make the jump right to the NHL. There will likely be some growing pains and his size is a concern, but he’s got the potential to develop into one of the league’s top two-way forwards and that Jonathan Toews-type of player is exactly what you want to build your franchise around.
Goaltending is still a big concern for the Flames though, so it wasn’t at all surprising to see them take a netminder with the 34th overall pick. McDonald isn’t a short-term answer to the Flames’ problems, but he certainly could be the Flames’ starting goaltender in three-to-five years when this team is really hitting its stride.
Edmonton Oilers – B+
The Oilers took Leon Draisaitl (3rd), William Lagesson (91st), Zachary Nagelvoort (111st), Liam Coughlin (130th), Tyler Vesel (153rd), and Keven Bouchard (183rd).
Draisaitl made history simply by being drafted third overall as no other German player has ever been taken that quickly in a draft. That’s exciting for hockey in Germany after the country failed to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics and was 14th in the 2014 World Championship. He’s also a promising skilled forward on a team that didn’t lack them to begin with. Taking a step back though, his selection wasn’t redundant as the team could certainly use a big center like Draisaitl and he should fit in nicely on the Oilers’ top-six in a year or two.
Los Angeles Kings – B
The Kings took Adrian Kempe (29th), Roland McKeown (50th), Alex Lintuniemi (60th), Michael Amadio (90th), Steven Johnson (120th), Alec Dillon (150th), Jake Marchment (157th), Matthew Mistele (180th), Spencer Watson (209th), and Jacob Middleton (210th).
The Kings won the Cup for the second time in three years, so obviously they haven’t had the opportunity to draft high. Kempe isn’t a bad pick for where he went though as he could develop into a nice power forward. They also traded Linden Vey to Vancouver, presumably to free up some cap space, and got the 50th overall pick in return. They used it to get McKeown, who is a good bet to become a decent defenseman at the NHL level.
Arizona Coyotes – A-
The Coyotes took Brendan Perlini (12th), Ryan MacInnis (43rd), Christian Dvorak (58th), Anton Karlsson (87th), Michael Bunting (117th), Dysin Mayo (133rd), David Westlund (163rd), Jared Fiegl (191st), and Edgars Kulda (193rd).
With its top pick, Arizona went with a great marriage of size and skill in Perlini. He’s not overly physical despite his frame, but he is fast and great with the puck. Over time, he might start to use his size to his advantage more and become a more complete player, but regardless he’d certainly be a valuable commodity on a team short on skilled forwards.
The Coyotes nabbed another big forward in MacInnis, although he lacks Perlini’s level of skill. The son of NHL defenseman Al MacInnis does have a good shot though and can park his big body in front of the net.
Arizona might have gotten a bit of a steal when they took Karlsson with the 87th overall pick. He’s smaller than MacInnis or Perlini, although certainly not small at 6-foot-1, but Karlsson is perfectly willing to throw his body around. He could develop into a fine defensive forward.
San Jose Sharks – B
The Sharks took Nikolay Goldobin (27th), Julius Bergman (46th), Noah Rod (53rd), Alex Schoenborn (72nd), Dylan Sadowy (81st), Alexis Vanier (102nd), Rourke Chartier (149th), and Kevin Labanc (171st).
Goldobin is immensely talented offensively, but raw skill isn’t enough to cut it in the NHL. You need to be responsible without the puck and that’s where the concern with Goldobin lies. At the same time, his hockey sense is one of his greatest attributes and that should help him make the adjustments to his game that are needed for him to succeed in the NHL. He’s not a safe pick, but he’s got high-upside compared to your typical late first-rounder.
Vancouver Canucks – A-
Oh boy were the Canucks ever busy. They made four trades over the course of Friday and Saturday. Omitting the picks that traded hands, they dealt Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison while adding Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett, and Linden Vey. The Canucks are getting younger and are gaining more cap flexibility, although the returns they got for Kesler and Garrison certainly weren’t stunning.
As for the draft itself, this was a great opportunity for the Canucks to restock as they had three high picks. With their two first round selections, they took a pair of forwards. In Virtanen they got a guy with a great shot that’s not afraid to charge the net. There’s a physical element to his game too and he might develop into a guy similar to Jarome Iginla. McCann is more of a two-way forward and will probably eventual serve as a third-line if he develops as projected.